Vive Le Canada

Don't repeat NAFTA disaster, trade experts warn
Date: Tuesday, March 06 2007
Topic:


Don't repeat NAFTA disaster, trade experts warn
By Mark Gruenberg

4 March 2007

WASHINGTON - The North American Free Trade Agreement, NAFTA, has been a disaster for workers and families, and even social institutions, in the three participating nations the United States, Canada and Mexico labor experts from the three countries told Congress.

Not only that, they warned that the pending U.S.-Korea Free Trade Agreement would be a repeat of that NAFTA fiasco. The U.S.-Korea FTA, like NAFTA, lacks worker rights and protections, while giving large rights and advantages to corporations, they said.

The briefing, assembled by the Economic Policy Institute, came as U.S. and Korean bargainers are still haggling over details of the U.S.-Korea FTA, with another negotiating session set for Seoul on March 11.

Bush regime Trade Representative Susan Schwab wants to sign the U.S.-Korea FTA by the end of March so Bush can send legislation implementing it to Congress for up-or-down votes without amendments before his fast-track trade pact bargaining authority ends on June 30.

In an echo of the NAFTA debate, Korean Confederation of Trade Unions Vice President Young-Koo Heo told lawmakers and their staffers at the Feb. 27 session the pending trade pact would be a disaster for his nation's workers and farmers. Workers who protested it were oppressed, Heo added. When they marched against it, 62 Korean unionists were thrown in jail.

In answer to a question, Heo added the FTA would hurt U.S. workers far more than is realized because "56 percent of our workers in Korea are irregular workers, whose wages are less than one-half those of regular workers. If the U.S.-Korea FTA is signed they will be exploited."

That would let multinationals exploit the low wages of that segment of the Korean workforce, just as NAFTA exploits Mexican workers and drives down wages of U.S. and Canadian workers, the other speakers said.

The other experts at the session Bruce Campbell, director of the Canadian Center for Policy Alternatives, Jeff Faux of EPI, Carlos Salas, Professor of the Institute of Labor Studies in El Colegio de Tlaxcala and EPI senior economist Robert Scott spent their time comparing the real-world impact of NAFTA with promises that pact's sponsors made 14 years ago. Those sponsors included business, the GOP and Democratic President Clinton. NAFTA backers claimed it would create at least 200,000 jobs.

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